How to Choose a Yoga Teacher

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A notable issue for new yogis is the selection of a teacher. It used to be that we found ourselves driving by a school in our local area and attended it without much thought, hoping for the best. Now we have many options within local areas and online. It can feel quite overwhelming to know where to go and what to do but I have some guidelines that can help.

First let’s go over two important points:

  1. Train with more than one teacher. You don’t want your whole practice to rely solely on one teacher or teaching, only to find it disappear or be knocked off of a pedestal for you if some kind of drama or emergency happens for a teacher. Let your practice be YOUR practice.
  2. The teachers you choose now may not be the teachers you choose 6 months from now. Learn to flow with your practice as it evolves. Though it is best to find a main teacher or teaching to focus on, you have to sample many to find the one for you.

With this in mind, let’s discuss how to select a core teacher for your practice. The four main things to look for when selecting a teacher are: Personality, Vibe, Commitment, and Background. Too often we look at a teacher’s background before we look at anything else and make a decision to attend class based on that alone. Yes this is important, but when it comes to something so personal as yoga training (and your ability to stick with it!) you should strive to find someone with a personality and vibe that fits well with you first. When you feel a connection to a teacher, you can fully get involved in the class and have an experience, instead of just learning a set of movements.

For example, I LOVE quantum physics but if the top expert in the field is grumpy and negative, I will not enjoy training with him and may even give up my love for the field if I try to do so. For me heart and balanced openness is key.

Of course, no one is perfect, but be mindful of how you feel with certain teachers. Some people really love being pushed to their limit and will do best with strong ‘in-your-face’ teachers. I have a colleague who likes worldly yet negative people, he says they are ‘realistic’. So he likes hearing his teacher say “This pose ain’t gonna give you enlightenment, but you will feel a little better, hopefully.”

  • So what’s key for you?
  • What is the first thing you notice about someone?
  • What is the first thing you notice about a teacher?
  • What is important to you about who they are?
  • What makes you feel comfortable around someone in authority? (A lot of stuff can come up in yoga class so you need to feel comfortable).

Then look at their commitment. Are they committed to helping students? Do they seem to enjoy teaching? Are they available in the class, which means paying attention to students? (Online this means – they pay attention to the fact that there are people behind the camera as well as in the room). Do they read yoga teachings and do things to serve their personal practice? If they have reached a high level in their practice, do they serve their community?

Now look at their background. If the class is mostly about physical poses then you do want to know where they trained. You want to feel comfortable that they have an understanding of anatomy and how to work with those who have injuries. Always take care of yourself first, and speak up if you feel any pain. A good teacher will welcome questions.

Also, if you use these guidelines you won’t miss out on an amazing beginner teacher. Times are changing and some newer teachers really do have a lot to offer. It’s all about you and what you need.

My over all suggestion is to select a main teacher, and have other teachers that flow in and out of your yoga life. Sometimes we learn who we are by seeing who we are not. If you are all into power yoga, give a calm slow style a try too once in a while. If you get “triggered” or upset in a different type of class then there just may be something there that you need to work on. Be flexible in your teacher choices as well as in your poses.



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Finding the Right Yoga Class for Right Now: A Guide to Feeling Good Today

As a yoga teacher, student, and all around believer of the power of yoga, I’ve invited my fair share of people to classes over the years. Regardless if the class is at a studio, in my living room, or outside at the park with kids playing nearby, there’s one thing I’ve come to expect: excuses. For so many people, there’s always some sort of reason to not practice yoga – sometimes to not even try it.

While I understand that time is short and each day is different, I’ve also practiced yoga long enough to know that no matter how you’re feeling, or how much (or little) time you have, yoga will always – always – make you feel better.

There’s no one perfect type of yoga. There’s also no one perfect type of yoga student. With a practice that has been around for centuries, it has come across enough people to learn how to adapt. In fact, if there’s one thing that yoga is – it’s flexible. Thankfully, you don’t have to be…or at least not physically. The only requirement for enjoying a yoga class is having an open mind and a flexible way of thinking, especially if you’re trying something new.

And, of course, you need to know how to find the right class.

Questions to Consider

For all of the woes technology brings, one of its biggest boons is the fact that you have access to literally everything you need exactly when you need it – including a great yoga class.

Like anything in life, in order to get the results you want, you have to know what you want. When you start looking for the right yoga class online, you have to start with an understanding of where you are right now and where you want to end up. Being really honest with this is the best way to learn how to fall in love with yoga. As I begin searching for the class I want to practice, I’ll ask myself a few questions to check in with where I am and what I need:

  • How much time do I have?
  • How much time can I make?
  • When is it the easiest to practice?
  • When do I need to practice the most?
  • How do I feel right now?
  • How do I want to feel when I finish?

Thankfully, the best online yoga studios and libraries have recognized the benefit of finding just the right class, which is why they have a variety of filters and categories that you can select for your search. A lot of days, I use these filters almost as I would a deck of tarot cards: Take a moment to shuffle and tap and then see what shows up.

A few scrolls later, I’m on my mat, in my class, enjoying something that feels like it was made just for me. (Note: It’s wonderful.)

What Feels Right for You?

When I’m helping a friend or student get started with their online practice, I usually point them in the direction of a selection of my favorite categories and let them know what they can expect from them. In time, these categories become like your favorite studio – there when you need them and with those special teachers you love dearly.

Morning Yoga

There’s rarely a better time to practice than first thing in the morning. Not only is this where time seems to be the most flexible (it’s just a matter of getting in the habit of waking up and getting up), but traditionally there are a lot of energetic and spiritual benefits that come from practicing with the rising sun. Case in point: the known-by-almost-everyone sun salutation. Morning yoga classes will greet you sweetly and then wake your body up from head to toe. Knowing that you’re just getting out of bed, teachers create classes that are gentle with the body, giving you time to warm up before getting your body moving. The intentions set in morning yoga classes help you create a container for your day, giving you the sense of balance and steadiness you need to move forward gracefully, confidently, and purposefully.

Energy

Yoga for energy style classes are another great way to start your day, but they aren’t just geared for mornings. I find energy classes particularly helpful for when you hit that mid-day wall. While some of these classes are the “regular” studio class length (60 minutes), there are several energy options that will be shorter, making them a great go-to practice for lunch breaks and bridging that gap between one part of your day to the next (i.e. from work to home, from home to school, from having the house to yourself to welcoming home family, etc.) Basically, when you think you could use a cappuccino, try reaching for one of these yoga classes.

Stress Relief

Who couldn’t benefit from a stress relief yoga class? Just the simple act of participating in daily life is stressful, especially when you add the constant inundation of technology. Stress relief classes are a great choice before you go to bed or after you finish a day of work (that includes the work stay-at-home parents do, too!) I have a few short stress relief classes saved to my library so that I can easily get to them the moment I start to feel my breath shortening, my shoulders creeping up towards my ears, and that all-too-familiar clenching that happens in my jaw when I’m feeling irritated.

Flexibility

While trying to “achieve” flexibility is never the goal, improving your body’s physical flexibility can help keep you comfortable and healthy – for decades. Yoga classes designed for flexibility will meet you where you are and help you find ways to lengthen the muscles in your body. Choosing a class for flexibility is a lot like choosing food that’s healthy – you can’t go wrong. If you know specifically that there’s an area in your body that’s tight, search for a class that’s geared to address that particular muscle or area. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel – especially if you return to a few of your favorite practices again and again.

Back Discomfort

Like stress, there are few people who haven’t experienced back pain in their life. And, for many people, back pain isn’t just a one-time occurrence, it’s chronic and frustrating. While some back pain is caused by an actual singular event, the majority of back discomfort is caused by years of tight muscles, stress, and bad posture. Yoga classes for back health will help relieve the discomfort you’re experiencing while also strengthening the muscles in your body necessary to help prevent some of the discomforts with time.

Instead of thinking about the class you “should” practice, get in the habit of finding the class you really need. Once you learn this lesson, a whole new world of yoga opens up for you – and it’s awesome.

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